I spent the last few hours of my high school prom with two other classmates, and our dates, celebrating in the Starlight Roof in June of 1960. Needless to say, since we were all under age, soda, juice, and water were the only beverages we could enjoy while there. Yet, there we were, very young and impressionable, dancing away at one of the most important hotels in the country. Arrangements had been made by my father, and this is really a short story about him.
My father was Captain of the Waiters in the banquet department and official announcer for the Waldorf Astoria from the 1950s to the 1980s, before his retirement. In that capacity he met and introduced monarchs, politicians, dignitaries, celebrities, actors, actresses, and folks from all over the world.
My father’s story is a significant part of the Waldorf Astoria story during the time that he was there and attention is deserved. If there was an important event at the Waldorf Astoria needing the services of the banquet department, he was undoubtedly there. If there was an announcer of guests required, he was undoubtedly providing the service.
We have pictures of him tying an apron around the waist of Arlene Francis, talking with John Wayne, escorting Happy Rockefeller, shaking hands with her husband, Nelson, standing with a smiling Jimmy Durante, talking with Eleanor Roosevelt, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey and many others.
Once when I was probably 13 or 14 years old, my father, while at work, called me, and put Micky Mantle on the phone. As an avid Yankee fan, then and now, it remains a call I will always treasure and to which I wish I was more responsive. What in the world does someone say to their childhood hero when they are suddenly, without notice, talking to them on the phone? I’m still speechless!